I cheated on REI with Sierra Trading Post.

For months now, I’ve been on the lookout for great deals to fill out my wardrobe. Namely, I still needed to purchase short-sleeved shirts, long underwear bottoms, and socks. I’d already decided that I was going to steer clear of synthetic materials since I’ve found that they become a haven for body odor. Instead, I was focusing explicitly on finding high quality wool garb.

Don’t be so skeptical about wool. I mean I understand; I grew up thinking that wool was itchy and suffocating and all-around unpleasant. But in 2003 I discovered Smartwool socks and more recently Smartwool long-sleeved shirts. I realized that, with modern techniques, wool can now be woven into garments that feel like cotton and naturally have antibacterial properties, which keeps odors at bay.

If it's good enough for the lamb...

If it’s good enough for the sheep…

I felt like I’d exhausted my luck with REI’s Outlet website, so I turned to Sierra Trading Post. Sierra Trading Post sells high quality brand name clothes, outdoor goods, and items for the home at discounts of 35%-70% on a daily basis. And discount codes are frequently available to increase the savings. The company does this by sourcing overstocked items, clearance, and seconds (i.e. with slight imperfections). I’ve purchased from the website since 2003 and have not once noticed even the most subtle mis-stitched seam on any of my goods.

Let me back up one step. A couple of months ago, I was on a shuttle bus at Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park when I heard a gentleman dressed in Civil War re-enactment gear mention the brand Icebreaker. He said he’d spent many sub-zero days at a time in his Icebreaker long underwear, which kept him warm and smelling like roses, and it also kept him cool in the heat. At the time, I filed away the brand name for later.

Fast forward again to my searching Sierra Trading Post. When my search for Smartwool came up short, I remembered the Icebreaker brand and decided to consider it.

The great thing about Sierra Trading Post is that it charges one standard re-stocking fee to return items from an order including shipping; it’s $5.95 whether you return one item or ten. So, I figured I’d get a laundry list (so to speak, giggle) of clothes to try out, knowing I’d return some and mentally incorporating that into the overall cost. And the best part is that every item of high quality wool that I purchased was between 51% and 60% off retail price.

When the package arrived, I was nervous to try out the selection since I’d only had experience with Smartwool clothes in the past. I had purchased 3 pairs of Icebreaker skiing socks, 1 pair of Lorpen socks, 2 pairs of Icebreaker long underwear, 1 pair of Terramar long underwear, 3 short-sleeved Icebreaker t-shirts, and 2 short-sleeved Smartwool t-shirts.

A few things to point out:

  • I bought ski socks because, when I’m hiking, I like my socks to be snug on my calves and to stop right below my knee. When I’d searched in stores and online for hiking socks, I could only find mid-calf options and realized that ski socks would preferably serve my purpose.

    And they double as stockings for the hearth.

    And they double as stockings for the hearth.

  • The three Icebreaker t-shirts I bought were made of 96% wool and a little bit of spandex. It’s crazy because they’re so thin and soft that they could’ve been made of cotton. And the fit is sporty like athletic wear. However, they do have that vague smell of wool (good sign).

    Hooooot (pink and blue). I'm guessing they will soon become dulled with a layer of dirt.

    Hooooot (pink and blue). I’m guessing they will soon become dulled with a layer of dirt.

  • The three pairs of long underwear I bought were all made of 100% wool, and each felt like a second skin. I didn’t want to take them off; they were so comfy.

    Pajamas are my favorite thing to wear. See the resemblance? It's going to be a great trek.

    Pajamas are my favorite thing to wear. See the resemblance? It’s going to be a great trek.

I ultimately decided to return the pair of Lorpen brand socks (suffocating), one pair of Icebreaker brand long underwear (didn’t really need that many), and the two short-sleeved Smartwool shirts (looked like a bag on me).

That means I held onto the three wool short-sleeved Icebreaker shirts, two pairs of long underwear, and three pair of socks. Full price retail the total would have been $437, but I paid $222 including the shipping and return fee. We’re not talking thrift store prices here, but I was looking for best value as opposed to bottom of the barrel and certainly achieved my goal.

At this point, I’ve exhausted my energy for clothes shopping. I figure that the three short-sleeved shirts will serve me for the entire trek – two at a time (with a long-sleeved Smartwool layered over when cold) and one to be swapped in. I’ve even worn them on several hikes and have the utmost confidence in their comfort and odor resistance.

I have a feeling that the two pairs of long underwear will last my entire trek. I’ll only really need them both for the first few winter months before the weather warms up to an oppressive muggy mess.

And the three pairs of skiing socks, well, I’m not going to dwell on them. Yes, I tried hiking in each pair and was happy with the results. Yet I know they may wear out or become too heavy as I hike into Spring. But, ya know, I’m just not going to dwell on it. Did I say that already? Ugh, I’m sick of shopping. And just in the nick of time. It’s almost time to get this show on the road, folks!

Meandering on,



9 thoughts on “I cheated on REI with Sierra Trading Post.

  1. I lived in Icebreaker shirts. Love them, but have noticed a drop in the quality of them in the last year of two. I still check them out but I have definitely migrated over to Ibex. Ibex is great AND made in the US, bonus!
    Must admit I have never tried Icebreaker socks, I hike in Bridgehale wool socks with a silk or synthetic sock liner, and daily ones are smartwool, but then I like my socks shorter. Socks are the most important part of hiking, I swear I must have tried a dozen combinations to find one that didn’t give me blisters!

      • I love my icebreaker’s but I think they have started to make a second line that isn’t as durable. Just make sure your getting their premium line and you can’t go wrong! Backcounty.com and Departmentofgoods.com will put them on sale in the off season, previous years summer wear during winter and vise versa. I have built up a great wardrobe of them that way.

  2. I’m not sure if you’ll need those long underwear when you start your trek. One day I’m wearing my winter coat, the next day I’m driving home with the top down. It’s so confusing. Just ask any Georgia citizen’s sinuses (including mine). BTW, I totally forgot to ask. When are you starting out? Depending on which weekend you’re heading to Amicalola Falls, I may be there. My wife and I would love to treat you to breakfast at the lodge and maybe even get a photo or two of you starting out.

    • Yeah, the weather is definitely crazy up here in DC too. All winter it’s been going from 15 degrees to 60 degrees and back. Hopefully it’ll be cold enough to kill off baby ticks but not for too long. Brrr. That’s so thoughtful and generous of you to offer breakfast! But I’m not positive yet exactly when I’m starting and if I’ll be doing the approach trail. I’m trying to keep it flexible in case the weather forecast’s ominous or anything else comes up. Thanks, though!

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